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Summer garden tours: ACNARGS member tour

August 29, 2009

Back on June 1, I posted a preview of photos from the rock garden society members’ garden tour. Here is the promised full version, a touch late. Perfectionist’s disclaimer: the middle of the day is not a good time to photograph anything, and you should be able to spend all day in any one of these gardens to fully see it.

May 2009 ACNARGS Member Garden Tour Revisited
This year’s member tour showcased starkly different gardens–urban, suburban, country, and commercial–whose common theme was the expert intertwining of rock, native, and traditional plantings. As a novice rock gardener still acclimatizing to the northeast, this mix was exciting to see. Each of these gardeners is expanding the notion of what gardens can be in their own settings. The pictures below are only a small representation from a remarkable day of learning from a passionate, friendly crowd. Unfortunately, I was not able to go to Bedlam Gardens.

David Mitchell’s Esty Street garden, Fall Creek, Ithaca
Passing through the layers of texture in the garden rooms David has created, you might forget you’re in a smallish urban corner. On one side of his home, the potager and rock garden soak up the sun, and a lush arbor is anchored by an old pear tree–the last survivor of a small orchard once shared by Fall Creek’s old Italian community. A path leads behind the well-hidden garage to a sophisticated shade garden on the south side side, walled completely from the street by a tall hedge and shaped by one of the oldest Magnolias in the city. Roses around the covered front porch soften the semi-formal style. David’s passions for plantsmanship and design is contagious, and any spot in this garden is a joy.

David's 70-odd-year-old Magnolia, one of the oldest in town. He says in winter, its shadows look like dragon tails on the flagstone.

David's 70-odd-year-old Magnolia, one of the oldest in town. He says in winter, its shadows look like dragon tails on the flagstone.

David's potager. I saw it a week ago, lush and overflowing.

David's potager. I saw it a week ago, lush and overflowing.

Hues of deep and bright purples surround the pond.

Hues of deep and bright purples surround the pond.

David's rock garden, softened at the edges of the lawn, contains a hardy prickly pear and other delights.

David's rock garden, softened at the edges of the lawn, contains a hardy prickly pear and other delights.

An old garage is all but hidden by many plant forms, giving great depth to a bed that's just a few feet wide in the small urban yard.

An old garage is all but hidden by many plant forms, giving great depth to a bed that's just a few feet wide in the small urban yard.

Under the magnolia, Asian and native Trilliums, Hostas, May apples, and ferns surround the shaded patio.

Under the magnolia, Asian and native Trilliums, Hostas, May apples, and ferns surround the shaded patio.

Nari Mistry’s suburban garden, Ellis Hollow Road
The garden at the home of Nari and his wife, Gin, on about two acres just east of Ithaca, manages to have two large areas devoted to rock plantings, a bog, a vegetable garden, a woodland, a sunny swath for tall grass and wildflowers, a spacious treehouse and play area for children, a moss garden, as well as traditional perennial borders. To share the success of their propagation efforts, guests were treated to gifts of native plant seedlings as well as tea and cookies.

Nari planted this Trillium 40 years ago, and it's never been divided.

Nari planted this Trillium 40 years ago, and it's never been divided.

Visible from Ellis Hollow Road, the Cornell Tower bird house is one of many that invite a wide variety of birds into the garden.

Visible from Ellis Hollow Road, the Cornell Tower bird house is one of many that invite a wide variety of birds into the garden.

At the back of the 2-acre property, a wooden path carries you over a boggy natural area filled with sensitive fern.

At the back of the 2-acre property, a wooden path carries you over a boggy natural area filled with sensitive fern.

Another birdhouse stands at one of several transitional spaces in the garden.

Another birdhouse stands at one of several transitional spaces in the garden.

Cactus anchoring the center rock garden.

Cactus anchoring the center rock garden.

 Tall grass and wildflowers separate a wooded area from the treehouse

Tall grass and wildflowers separate a wooded area from the treehouse

A second gravel and rock garden to the south of the house spans a small slope leading to the back of the property.

A second gravel and rock garden to the south of the house spans a small slope leading to the back of the property.

Hidden details like tiny polar bears in the moss garden delight kids and careful observers.

Hidden details like tiny polar bears in the moss garden delight kids and careful observers.

Susanne Lipari’s country garden near Alpine, NY
At the end of the day, we met at Susanne’s garden, about a half-hour drive west of Ithaca. Gardening here for 29 years, intensively for 15, she has created a modern country garden, with a rolling softness shaped with the heart of an artist and the eye of a scientist. At this stage, she says, it sort of takes care of itself. Coming up the steep gravel/scree slope from the road, the gentle color of creepers, rock plants, and whimsical containers invite you in. Pathways made of stone from the old farm’s walkways lead to the north garden, with big-leafed Hosta hedges, nursery beds, and a large vegetable plot. To the west, uphill from the house, a steep slope laid with gravel forms another, shadier rock garden. Moving south, the sunnier hillside opens up with flowering borders and the patio from which to enjoy the view of the garden and into the valley fields.

The southern edge of Susanne's large country garden feels like a poet's meditative retreat, with stone paths to walk and delicate tree branches shaping expansive views.

The southern edge of Susanne's large country garden feels like a poet's meditative retreat, with stone paths to walk and delicate tree branches shaping expansive views.

Clematis lights up the central sunny garden.

Clematis lights up the central sunny garden.

A tree snag decorated with beakers gives new life to the bottle tree concept. The view across the valley extends the pastoral pleasure of walking in Susanne's gardens.

A tree snag decorated with beakers gives new life to the bottle tree concept. The view across the valley extends the pastoral pleasure of walking in Susanne's gardens.

Old farm containers, enamel tubs, and troughs dot the scree slope facing the road.

Old farm containers, enamel tubs, and troughs dot the scree slope facing the road.

Upended beakers and bottles throughout the garden catch the light and lend and air of plant science to the country.

Upended beakers and bottles throughout the garden catch the light and lend and air of plant science to the country.

Hostas are so varied and prolific here, they form hedges.

Hostas are so varied and prolific here, they form hedges.

Susanne leads the group around the northwest garden. As a novice, I was delighted to hear her answer when asked the name of a specific plant: "That's why I have all of you out here!"
Masses of color surround the patio, where the tour-goers ended the day with snacks and conversation.

Masses of color surround the patio, where the tour-goers ended the day with snacks and conversation.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2009 6:46 am

    Those gardens look like a good way to spend the day.

  2. August 30, 2009 6:02 pm

    You know how it is.
    See one garden and you want to see them all.

    Glad I looked. Dave’s birdbath gave me an idea.

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